Saints head coach Sean Payton says he feels "Good" about Saints depleted receiver corps with the Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders listed as OUT of the Panthers' game.
It's been a tough week for the New Orleans Saints wide receiving corps. On Wednesday, many were surprised when the team listed All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas with a hamstring injury. Thomas confirmed with his social media posting, saying it was a "setback."
On Friday, New Orleans was dealt another blow. Wideout Emmanuel Sanders became ill on Thursday, got tested, and was confirmed positive with COVID-19. Coach Payton confirmed the report on Sanders with media. He said tests were ordered for approximately 20 people who electronic tracers had them in contact or near Sanders. At this point, no other Saints player had a confirmed COVID-19 test stemming from contact with Sanders.
Finally, Sanders' close friend and teammate Bennie Fowler was placed on injured reserve by the Saints because of a shoulder injury.
What does this mean for the New Orleans Saints receiving unit?
The team's healthy and active receivers are Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, and RB/WR Ty Montgomery. Montgomery was designated to return to the active 53-man roster earlier this week. The other wideouts on the team's practice squad are Austin Carr, Juwan Johnson, and Tommylee Lewis. Second-year receiver Lil' Jordan Humphrey is on the injured reserve list.
Carr most likely will get promoted due to his familiarity with playing in the Saints offense the past two seasons. Alvin Kamara leads the Saints with 38 receptions. Payton heavily utilizes him as a receiver in most personnel groupings. It will be interesting to see if Ty Montgomery can make contributions on Sunday as a receiver.
Early in 2020, Tre'Quan Smith had to assume Michael Thomas' role at the number spot. Smith has 16 receptions for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. After Smith, the drop-off is significant. Other than Kamara, no other healthy receiver on the roster has notched a touchdown.
Tight ends Jared Cook, Josh Hill, and Adam Trautman may become extremely important in Sunday's game against the Panthers. So does rookie wide receiver Marquez Callaway. He emerged in the Los Angeles Chargers game on special teams and helped to pick-up 2 critical first downs for New Orleans. Has Callaway done enough for Drew Brees to trust him in the Saints offense?
Carolina has issues as well. Their defensive backfield is also suffering from the absence of CB Rasul Douglas. Douglas was placed on the team's COVID-19 list this week. Entering the stage will be former New Orleans cornerback Eli Apple. Apple is healthy again and will take on the depleted Saints receivers.
New Orleans will be battle a well-coached young team with head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator and previous Saints assistant Joe Brady guiding the Panthers (3-3). Dennis Allen's defensive secondary will have their hands full against wide receivers Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But now arrival will be more anticipated than the return of former Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Carolina and New Orleans need to win this game to keep pace with the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South. Since the Bucs announced the signing of erratic free-agent star wide receiver Antonio Brown on Friday, many pundits are penciling them in as the Super Bowl reps for the NFC.
New Orleans still has depth issues at cornerback they need to address. Upgrades at tight end, safety, and both lines are not off the table for the Saints. GM Mickey Loomis has always entertained trade discussions in the past. The NFL's November 3rd trade deadline is looming, will the Saints "make a deal" to improve its current roster?
For now, let see how the Saints' young receivers respond on Sunday without Thomas and Sanders.